Friday, August 10, 2012

Understanding Qualities and Behaviors of Wildland Fire Supervisors

Understanding that August is generally a busy time of the year for fire, I would not be asking for your time if I did not think that the results from this study could make a real difference for the trainings and safety of fire personnel. ~ Alexis Lewis
The mission of the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program is "to promote cultural change in the work force and to emphasize the vital importance of leadership concepts in the wildland fire service by providing educational and leadership development opportunities." This mission is accomplished through various efforts, including research.

The following study by doctoral student and wildland firefighter Alexis Lewis is not funded by the NWCG Leadership Subcommittee (LSC); however, the LSC is aware of and endorses her research.

A Few Words from Alexis

My name is Alexis Lewis, and I am a PhD candidate at Oregon  State University in Exercise and Sport Psychology and have been a wildland firefighter for nine seasons. Based on some of my own, and others near misses/accidents and leadership experiences in fire I have developed a drive to build and enhance fire trainings and tools based on what firefighters have expressed is important. I have been conducting research on wildland firefighting leadership and decision-making performance since 2006; the current research is the result of the previous six years’ work and research with wildland firefighters to improve work engagement and safety. The attached flyer explains a little more about the study with my contact information; I would greatly appreciate your willingness to consider being a part of the study.

Based on six years of previous research, we have consolidated an array of characteristics and behaviors of wildland fire leaders that were described by wildland fire personnel to be the most important in the wildland fire environment to a final set. In order to move forward and make use of this research and apply it to the development of wildland fire personnel, we are assessing how often these behaviors and qualities occur and if they are associated with two conceptual tools that could be used in trainings.

  1. Assess 60 wildland fire "crews" (including engines, type 1 handcrews, type 2 handcrews, modules, fuels, and helitack) taken from both the supervisors' and crewmembers' perspectives for how often these leadership behaviors/qualities are enacted by the primary supervisor of the crew.
  2. Assess two conceptual tools with wildland fire supervisors' to see if/how they might be associated with the previously described leadership behaviors/qualities for possible future implementation in future training.
While we ARE assessing what has been described as important leadership behaviors/qualities, we are NOT evaluating leader/supervisor effectiveness in this study. We are trying to gain a better understanding of how these behaviors occur and if they are associated with potential training tools. The comparisons we make will occur across the compilation of crews who complete the surveys, not between a supervisor and his/her crewmembers of a particular crew.

The results of this study will give us a direct guide to developing future wildland fire leadership trainings that are based on actual wildland firefighters' opinions and experiences.

I am looking for "crew" supervisors who would consider, or are willing to fill-out a 15 minute survey based on their leadership, and allow their crewmembers to fill-out a 5 minute survey where they will assess how often they see their supervisor enact the previously described behaviors/qualities. Anonymity/Confidentiality: All answers on the surveys will be anonymous, and no individuals or crews will be identified in this survey.

If 80% of each crew (including the supervisor) fills out the survey, a $25 donation will be made to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation; while not much alone, as a whole it could add up to nearly $1000 for the Foundation if all crews participate.

If supervisors are willing we ask for their phone/email/Mailing address where we can contact them, and answer questions; We ask that the surveys be filled out and returned within two weeks of receiving them. Any interested supervisors please contact me (Alexis Lewis) at: or at 541-215-3454.

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